Monday, December 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Weather

Plan how to evacuate from a hurricane

• Be informed. Stay tuned to local radio and television stations for emergency broadcasts. If you are ordered to evacuate, do so immediately. Don't wait until the storm bears down on you. Emergency officials may refuse to send first responders into a life-threatening situation to rescue you at the height of the storm.

• Leave early if you are elderly or frail or require complicated medical equipment. The more complicated your departure will be, the sooner you need to leave.

• Know where you'll go. Make a plan before you are told to leave. If you plan to stay at a public shelter (which should be your last resort), know where the closest one is and how to get there. Practice driving the route several times. Develop alternate routes in case traffic is heavy or roads are blocked. You may have to evacuate at night or in heavy rain.

• Be prepared for traffic jams. Nearly 3-million residents of Houston sat in gridlock for three days in September 2005 attempting to flee Hurricane Rita.

• Take food and water. Restaurants along your route may be closed or overcrowded, or you may be sitting on an interstate, barely moving, for hours on end in heat, humidity and rain.

• If lines at your neighborhood gas station aren't already long, start out with a full tank of gas and hope that fuel trucks will replenish stations along your route if necessary. (That didn't happen during Rita; some would-be evacuees simply ran out of gas.)

• Evacuate locally if at all possible. Sitting in traffic in an unprotected area or on a bridge at the height of the storm can be dangerous.

• Protect your paperwork. Place important papers in a waterproof box you can take with you.

• Secure your home. Turn off electricity, water and gas. Lock doors and windows.

• Be prepared to be gone several days. It may be some time before authorities allow you to return.

• When you return, carry identification with your photo and address. To keep out looters and sightseers, authorities may turn you away if you can't prove you live there.

• Don't drive into trouble. If you can't see the street, don't drive on it. Roads covered in water may have washed out or may drop off abruptly. Water may be electrified by live wires you can't see.

• Establish an out-of-town contact, such as a family member or friend. Let that person know where you are going and stay in touch in the days ahead. He or she can notify other friends or relatives. That way you won't have to make dozens of calls when communication is difficult.

Times staff writer

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